A Weird Western Saga
|The story so far... Ten years before, supernatural demons -- The Four -- cast a spell over the town of Serenity, locking the townsfolk in a timeless state where they were unaware of the passage of years, and replacing the rightful marshal, Grady O'Halloran, with their agent, Marshal Boxer, all as part of scheme that would culminate in the Four achieving a corporeal presence on earth. But thanks to the investigations of Raven Clark and the late Nolan Paige, that plan has been threatened. Now Raven Clark, Grimm, and Deputy Lake race to the Outskirts to confront Marshal Boxer outside the mine tunnel that leads to his dark masters. But, to their surprise, when the showdown comes...the marshal steps aside and allows them clear passage to his masters...|
The Gunderson children, horror in their eyes, leaped in front of Marshal Boxer. Lars’s voice was a shrill screech. “What have you done? The Four are not prepared for such a powerful foe!”
Boxer, grinning, holstered his gun, and leaned against the mine. “I know.”
Lili pulled at fistfuls of hair. “He speaks the word only donkeys dare whisper.”
“Betrayer!” Lars’s little body quaked. “You shall know suffering like no other when this is done.”
“I doubt that.” Boxer straightened and strolled toward his horse. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a town to run . . . by myself.”
Lars reached into his pocket, but someone else was already in motion. Deputy Lake charged at Boxer, and before the marshal could turn around, drove his rifle stock into the base of Boxer’s skull. The marshal hit the ground in a heap, and didn’t get up.
Lake stood over his fallen boss. “We still got law in these parts, Marshal. And you’re under arrest.”
“Lake look out!”
Raven’s cry turned the deputy around just in time to see Lars Gunderson flying at him, barber’s razor in hand. The blade trimmed the ends from the hair above Lake’s ear as the deputy dropped his rifle and dove away from the oncoming child.
Raven dashed to Lake’s side as he rose. They turned and found themselves between the mine wall and the Gundersons, both brandishing razors. Lake’s rifle lay in the dust beyond the children.
Foam collected in the corners of Lars’s permanent grin. “You have been a great nuisance to us, Miss Clark. If I could, I would kill you where you stand. Unfortunately, I’ll have to settle for the vivisection of another man you care about.”
Raven stared at the boy with a dead look in her eyes. Deputy Lake stepped forward. “What do you mean another man she . . . you! You killed Paige.” (back in Episode 10: "Veritas" ~ the ed.)
Lars’s grin widened. “Indeed. Although, it was actually my dear Lili who delivered the first, fatal stroke. I merely—”
The gunshot snared the boy’s words in his throat. Lars jolted into a back flip, and landed face down in the dirt. A crater marred the back of his head.
Lili Gunderson screamed and crossed to her brother. His ears ringing from the shot, Deputy Lake turned to Raven. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she held a smoking, two-shot Derringer. A thin, white cloth lay in the dust at her feet. “Art Chaney gave it to me . . said I might need it someday.”
Lili Gunderson stood in her brother’s pooling blood, her grin still perfectly intact. “You broke the toy and made my brother see big dirt. I’m telling the nannies about your song.”
The little girl ran for the mine. Raven aimed the tiny pistol, but Deputy Lake obscured her line of sight. Lili disappeared into the mine. Raven moved to follow, but Lake had her arm. “Where’re you going?”
“To kill her.” Raven pointed the gun at Lars Gunderson’s body. “You heard what he said; she cut into Nolan first.”
Lake seized her by both shoulders. “These are children you’re killing here, Miss Clark. You can’t just—”
“These are demons!” She pulled free of his grip. “And yes. I can.”
Lake retrieved his rifle. “What about the chamber? You said we were here for some chamber.”
Tears still rolled down Raven’s cheeks. “The chamber, these children, the marshal, Nolan, Grimm: they’re all connected. Don’t you see that? Can’t you see there’s something larger than us at work here?”
Lake licked his lips. “No, I can’t. But, I can see the look in your eyes, and it’s telling me two things.”
“And what are they?” Raven folded her arms over her chest.
“You believe what you say.” He cocked the rifle. “And you’re going need help in that chamber.”
Marshal Boxer lifted his head from the dust to a chorus of pain from within. He got to his feet, stumbled toward his mount, then stopped. Boxer turned to see three horses still hitched outside the mine.
He scanned the area. Several buzzards were picking at a small body on the far side of the clearing. Boxer squinted. It was the boy. There was no sign of the Serenity riders or Lili Gunderson.
Boxer wrapped a hand around the back of his pounding head, drew his gun, and staggered toward the mine.
Lili Gunderson screamed all the way to the chamber. And then she stopped.
“Nan . . . nannies?”
Two of the four stone thrones were destroyed. The altar lay in two pieces, broken down the center. There were cracks, craters, and gouges throughout the walls. One of The Four was dead, smashed to bits in a corner of the chamber. Now The Three -- the winged stone demons soared from the ramparts, swooping and diving at the huge figure who had destroyed their brethren.
At the center of the chamber, Grimm was kneeling but held his ground.
His hat and duster shredded, gashes and chunks torn from his flesh, Grimm brought his massive revolver to bear and fired. The chunky bullet met the oncoming demon at the shoulder and shattered its arm. With a shriek, the stone monster careened into the wall and clattered to the ground.
At the mouth of the chamber, Lili Gunderson raised her blade: screaming, she charged at Grimm. She got to within a yard of him when Grimm, rushing to reload his gun, drew back to punch one of The Three. His elbow caught the girl in the jaw and sent her the length of the chamber, where she crumpled into a little mound.
Raven and Deputy Lake dashed through the chamber door and dove in opposite directions to avoid flying demon debris. Rubble was strewn at the mouth of the chamber. Raven rolled to her knees and fell back against the wall.
“Oh my God.”
The chamber was in shambles. Grimm was in the center of the maelstrom, on one knee. He thrust his revolver overhead and blasted the wing from a swooping stone demon. Shards of stone rained down on the entire chamber. Raven and Lake curled into balls to shield themselves.
They were now The Two. The single-winged demon crashed to the ground. The other stone demon had all its limbs and both wings intact. It lurched behind Grimm and swatted him to the ground.
Raven was on her feet, braced against the wall. She looked across the chamber and found Deputy Lake in a similar posture. She caught his eye, looked at Grimm and the demon, and gave a single nod. He swallowed hard and nodded back. Raven put up three fingers, then two, then one, and they charged.
Before they could get two yards, the single-winged demon imploded.
With an ear-splitting roar, the stone monster reared up, spread its arms, and burst into countless pieces. Raven and Lake dove for the corners of the chamber. In the stone demon’s place was a violet orb of energy. It hovered for a moment, then streaked for the mouth of the chamber and was gone before Raven and Lake could react to its movement.
Now there was One.
At the center of the chamber, the last demon raised both arms over Grimm, who struggled to get to his feet. The demon’s stone mouth curled into a cruel snarl, and it drove its arms down at the fallen Grimm.
The demon stopped in mid-motion and looked over its shoulder. Raven pointed her Derringer between its eyes.
“You don’t get him until you take me.”
She fired. Her aim was true; the bullet took the stone demon between the eyes. And did nothing.
At the center of the chamber, Deputy Lake used all his strength to pull Grimm to his feet. He looked across the room and saw Raven standing transfixed, caught in the stone demon’s stare. “Raven!” Lake struggled to brace his rifle against the shoulder of his free arm.
Lake aimed the rifle, but with his remaining strength, Grimm raised a huge fist and slapped the weapon from the deputy’s grip. “Wait.”
Lake looked at the massive man, rage and fear in his eyes, but Grimm stared at Raven. “Watch.”
The stone demon fixed Raven with the same sneer it gave Grimm and swung a thick stone arm at her head.
Raven stood her ground, closed her eyes, and hoped Grimm and Lake made it back to Serenity alive.
The demon’s stone arm swung to within a foot of Raven’s head and shattered to dust.
Squealing in anguish, the demon staggered back, turned on its clawed heel, and stared directly down the barrel of Grimm’s hulking revolver.
The massive man pulled the trigger, then collapsed, dragging Lake to the floor with him.
Grimm’s shot struck the demon where Raven’s Derringer had and reduced the stone monster’s head to pebbles.
Raven shielded herself where she stood, and Lake threw himself over Grimm as the headless demon toppled over backward and broke into ruin on the stone floor.
The Four were no more.
Raven scrambled over the rumble-strewn floor to the chamber’s center. Deputy Lake had turned Grimm onto his broad back. Raven knelt and glanced at Lake, who closed his eyes and shook his head. Raven swallowed a lump in her throat and leaned over Grimm. “You’re gonna be all right, Grimm. You hear me? Deputy Lake and I are gonna get you out of here.”
Grimm convulsed; thick, dark blood welled from his mouth and his word was a belch. “No.”
Raven laid a hand on his ravaged chest, tears clouding her vision. “Yes. You hear me? Yes! You beat them all. We’ve got to save you.”
Grimm shook his head, then reached for Lake. The Deputy leaned over and allowed Grimm to grab his shirt. “You want me, big man? What is it?”
Grimm tapped Lake’s chest and looked at Raven. “Faith.”
Raven and Lake exchanged a glance as Grimm’s hand moved to Raven’s chest. He tapped her breastplate and looked at Lake. “Strength.”
Raven took Grimm’s hand in both of hers. With a shudder, he pulled his hand from her grasp and motioned to the mouth of the chamber. “Go.”
Grimm’s arm dropped. Raven caught it before it hit the stone floor. But he was gone.
Raven rocked on her knees, hands in her lap. Her sobs echoed through the chamber.
Art Chaney, Nolan Paige, and now Grimm. The only men ever to protect her were dead.
Lake reached for Grimm’s revolver. The deputy thought it should be enshrined somewhere in Serenity as a tribute to Grimm, but he could not budge weapon from the ground.
There was a small whimper from the far corner of the room. Raven and Deputy Lake turned to see Lili Gunderson sitting against the wall. Raven snatched a shard of demolished demon from the ground, leaped to her feet, and with a depraved scream, charged at the little girl. Lake dashed after her.
Raven seized Lili by the wrist, wrenched the little girl to her feet, and drove the stone spike at the child’s chest.
The makeshift weapon was within inches of piercing Lili’s heart when Lake caught Raven’s wrist. “Stop!”
Raven glared at Lake, eyes ablaze. “She killed Nolan. She’s a monster, like them. She has to die! I have to—”
“Look at her!” Lake squeezed Raven’s wrist and pulled her arm away from Lili’s chest. The deputy grabbed the little girl by the collar and presented her to Raven. “Look at her face.”
Raven shot a glance at the child’s face, gasped, and dropped the stone spike.
Lili’s grin was gone.
The child looked from Lake to Raven, then peered at the rest of the chamber. She laid a hand over her middle. “No more bad in my belly. No more nannies to say what’s bad is best.”
Leading Lili by the hand, Deputy Lake collected his rifle from the stone floor and turned to Raven. “Ready?”
Raven took one last look at Grimm, glanced around the chamber, turned to go, and found herself looking down the barrel of Marshal Boxer’s gun.
“We need to talk.”
At sunrise the next morning, three horses crested the horizon outside Serenity. Marshal Boxer rode to one side of Raven. Deputy Lake, with Lili Gunderson asleep on his shoulder, rode on the other. They’d found a pile of black dust where Grimm’s horse had been.
Boxer turned to Raven. “So, just so we have this straight, let me hear our story one more time.”
Raven sighed. “Nolan wanted to tell you about The Four, but they killed him before he could get to you. So, I told you where they were, and we took Deputy Lake to The Outskirts to destroy them.”
Boxer smiled. “Good. And how did you know about them?”
Raven rolled her eyes. “Nolan told me before he died.”
“And . . . was Mr. Grimm involved in this at all?”
“And . . . why are we returning with a child who was thought burned to death in the saloon fire?”
“The Four took her during the fire to prove their power, in the hopes you’d stay away from them.”
“What happens if you don’t follow my instructions to the letter?”
Raven recited in a singsong voice. “You arrest me and are forced to kill me when I try to escape.”
Serenity was in sight.
The riders found Acting Marshal Richter and Mayor Brubaker waiting at the town gate. Richter raised a hand, and the riders stopped. “Howdy Stu. Any luck?”
Boxer cocked an eyebrow. Lake glanced at Raven, then looked at Richter with knit brows. “Uh . . . yes. I reckon you could say that.”
Richter’s and the mayor’s eyes lit up. Brubaker stepped forward. “You found him?”
Lili Gunderson stirred in Lake’s arms. The deputy rubbed the child’s back, glanced quizzically at Boxer, and addressed the mayor. “N-no, I didn’t find him. Who was I looking for, exactly?”
Richter and Brubaker exchanged a glance. “Why, the marshal, of course.”
Richter stepped forward, indicating Boxer and Raven with his shotgun. “Who’re your friends here, Stu?”
“Indeed.” Brubaker pushed a monocle into his eye. “And what is the meaning of this child?”
“What the hell is this?” Boxer dismounted and crossed to Richter. “I’m right here, Bump. It’s me, the marshal.”
Richter opened his mouth to speak, but Brubaker stepped past him to face Boxer. “Now, see here, sir. I don’t know who you are or what you want, but neither you, this strange woman, nor this bedraggled child is marshal for the town of Serenity.
“Our marshal is Grady O’Halloran, and he’s been missing since yesterday.”
(of Serenity - Season One that is, but there are still more tales to be told of the old town, so coming soon...Serenity: Season Two)
Serenity is copyright by Jason Chirevas. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)